Surgical Mesh Implants — [Albert Owen in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:12 am on 18th October 2017.

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Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 10:12 am, 18th October 2017

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, but many women were not even informed that they had the devices in the first place. Other Members have touched on the fact that because the complications can be late in arising and because of the inadequacy of recording, it is very difficult for women to come forward.

In the brief time available, I would like to mention the yellow card scheme—I will add links on my social media later—which enables women to self-report complications. However, if someone does not know they have had the device fitted they will not report those complications. There is work to raise awareness among GPs of the possibility that symptoms that women present with are related to mesh, to ensure that those women are referred. I welcome the specialist centres that have been set up to treat women who have been so adversely affected by mesh, but if mesh is inserted in the first place, it should absolutely be done in specialist centres.

I do not agree that we should ban mesh, because for some women the symptoms of stress urinary incontinence or prolapse can be life-altering. We should retain it as an option where alternative procedures may create worse outcomes or worse complications, but there must be adequate consultation with women about the risks so that they can weigh them up. I agree with Members who have said they hope that NICE can prioritise the development of more detailed guidance, so that we may have it as soon as possible.

A fundamental absence of data is at the heart of the issue. There has been cavalier practice, and we cannot allow that to continue. The women who have been affected deserve an apology and recognition of the extent of the problem and the delays in recognising and dealing with it. I welcome the findings of the mesh oversight group report, which describes pragmatic and practical recommendations, but clear failings have been allowed to continue for so long. At the heart of those failings is the inadequacy of clinical trials, recording and consent. Finally, we know that the devices are regulated by the European Union. I hope the Minister will comment on how the Government propose to take this issue forward after we leave the European Union. At the heart of it is the need to ensure that the safety of women is prioritised at all times.